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Sustaining our Future: Community Update

October 27, 2010

In 2009, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (CLP) struggled to close the gap between increasing costs and declining revenues, due primarily to state budget cuts and level RAD funding. The CLP Board of Trustees projected a $5 million deficit by 2014 and approved an Action Plan, which included increases in fines, fees and fundraising; reductions in library services and staffing as well as branch consolidations, relocations and closures. Major portions of that Action Plan are currently on hold until January 2011 as the Library works to find long-term dedicated funding.

The Library and the community have been working together to find options for dedicated long-term funding. The following report outlines important milestones and progress made since the previous report on August 5, 2010. The Library is committed to ongoing dialogue and information sharing with the community through reports such as this, press releases following Board meetings and the Community Conversation process.

 
 

Still the Region's Most-Visited Asset

More than 2 million people visit Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (CLP) annually-more than the amount of people who attend Pittsburgh Steelers and Pittsburgh Pirates games combined. That makes CLP the region's most-visited asset.

With the reopening of CLP - East Liberty in August, all 19 Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh locations are now open. Circulation for 2010 is up by 14% system-wide over 2009, with some branches seeing an increase as high as 36%.

More than half of the City's residents have a CLP card, and the Library has a total of 294,733 cardholders. If all CLP cardholders were in the new Consol Energy Center, 16 people would have to share each seat.

Not only is CLP a popular regional asset, it is also an important institution. The free resources that the library provides are vital in the current economy. Customers have free access to computers, job search resources and information on health care and other social services.

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RAD Preliminary Budget Announced

On September 30th the Allegheny Regional Asset District (RAD) released its preliminary budget allocations for 2011. In its budget request to RAD the Library asked for an additional $1.7 million as stop-gap funding for 2011. Given the status of various efforts to secure long-term funding, the Library views 2011 as another year requiring stop-gap funding until a long-term funding solution can be fully pursued and implemented.

Although RAD's final budget will be adopted in November, the preliminary budget indicates a $352,000 increase to Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh for 2011 to offset the projected deficit. While this amount will not fill the entire deficit for 2011, the Library is grateful for RAD's support and will continue to seek additional funds to preserve critical library services.

A public hearing on the budget took place on October 26, at which several community members spoke eloquently to the RAD board about the importance of libraries to our community. RAD's final budget will be adopted in November.

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State Funding

In September, Secretary of Education Tom Gluck informed the library community of an additional 1.9% reduction to the 2010-2011 public library subsidy. This comes on the heels of a July State budget that reduced annual operating funding for Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (CLP) by 9.1%. The reductions amount to an additional annual cut of $407,000 for CLP's 2011 budget on top of last year's state budget impacts, which reduced CLP's annual operating budget by $1.5 million. The means that for the foreseeable future, CLP has lost nearly two million dollars in annual support from the state. This reduction in state funding is a major factor in the Library's growing deficit every year.

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Public Private Task Force

Over the past seven months, the Task Force on Sustainable Library Funding has gathered information and met nine times to discuss Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's financial outlook, benchmarks from other American public libraries and the Library's ability to obtain stable and adequate funding. Task Force chair and Library Trustee the Honorable Frank Lucchino reported that the group has explored 19 library funding opportunities to sustain the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh system. Of these, three have been found to have the most potential for further study; some could require a ballot initiative or other legislation and therefore would take some time to implement. A final recommendation to the Library's Board of Trustees is expected in December.

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Community Conversation Workshops

Since May, twelve Community Workshops have been held throughout the City of Pittsburgh to explore strategies to ensure the long-term financial and operational health of the Library. More than 1,400 people participated (either in person or online) in the workshops. The net result of the process has been three-fold: (1) a group of people now understands the challenges facing the Library (2) the Library has inspired communities to support their branches through advocacy and fundraising; and (3) the Library has good qualitative information from the public to inform strategies for the future.

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Board of Trustees Meeting

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's Board of Trustees held its quarterly Board Meeting on Monday, October 18. During the meeting, the Board received an interim report from the ten-member Public Private Task Force on Sustainable Library Funding, was briefed on the outcome of the Library's year-long community engagement process and voted to move forward with the next projects in its Libraries for LIFE capital campaign.

Building upon the Community Conversation process, the Board is continuing transparent two-way communication between the Library Board, Library users and community stakeholders. One idea being implemented involves identifying community members to serve one year appointments on Library Board committees. Representing a cross-section of Pittsburgh neighborhoods, these committee members would help the Board better engage the community in the decision making and work of the Library, provide an ongoing dialog with the community and increase diversity on the committees.

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Capital Projects

During its October meeting the Library's Board of Trustees unanimously approved a resolution to proceed with capital plans to renovate CLP - South Side and continue the process of a potential merger of CLP - Carrick and CLP - Knoxville. CLP - South Side is a priority for renovation due to its accessible location, the neighborhood status as the third-largest employment center after Downtown and Oakland, and its relatively high visitor count and high county use. Through the Libraries for LIFE capital campaign, the Library has received restricted funding for building improvements that cannot be used for operating expenses. Currently, $2.7 million in capital funding is specifically restricted to CLP-South Side. If the project was postponed or canceled, these dollars could have been lost.

The Library will continue its process of identifying sites and working with the community on the potential merger of CLP-Carrick and CLP-Knoxville. The Library has many reasons to pursue this project. A single, larger library facility will accommodate more materials, services, computers and programs and serve more total customers than the two current locations combined. Overall, a new merged location will enable the Library to reduce long-term operating costs, while providing valuable library services to Carrick, Knoxville and other communities in the southern portion of the city.

While the Library works on these projects, the Board of Trustees plans to continue to seek long-term sustainable funding for operations.

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Fundraising and Advocacy

Since 2002, the Library has more than tripled the number of donors from 1420 (2002) to 5081 (2009). A fundraising appeal letter sent in October and another in November are expected to generate increases in total gifts from individuals. Private contributed support is critical to the Library's ability to achieve long-term sustainability. Community members are urged to make their gifts as soon as possible via mail, phone or online at www.carnegielibrary.org.

PittsburghGives Day of Giving

The Day of Giving on October 13 raised $3.3 million for area non-profits. The Library received 761 gifts totaling $71,737. Gifts were matched at the rate of $.20 for every $1 contributed so the Library will receive an additional $14,347.40 in matching funds as a result of the generosity of contributors. The Library is grateful to all the people who supported the system through Pittsburgh Gives. Your gift will be put to immediate use.

"It's My Library" Day

On Thursday, October 21 Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh hosted a system-wide "It's My Library" advocacy day! The purpose for this day was to provide general library advocacy awareness, bring excitement around the Library and recruit customers to join a Friends Group.

You can still get involved and show your support of the Library! Please consider:

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